There was a large market for German-language publications in America during the 19th and early-20th centuries. American publishers offered German readers a wide range of materials ranging from broadsides, journals, newspapers, and books, to pamphlets, sheet music, and more.
One of Wisconsin’s earliest German-language newspapers was the weekly Wiskonsin Banner, first published in Milwaukee in 1844, while Wisconsin was still a territory. Opposed to the platform of the nativist Whig Party, this Democratic paper advocated that recently-arrived immigrants have the right to vote. While Milwaukee was a publishing powerhouse in Wisconsin, with titles ranging from Die Hausfrau to the socialist Vorwärts, there were newspapers and periodicals printed in German in many other Wisconsin cities and towns.
By the time America entered the First World War, there were almost 100 German-language newspapers published in Wisconsin, four of them daily; some had circulations between 10,000 and 100,000 well into the 1900s. They were published in every corner of the state, from the Deutsche Zeitung in Beloit to the Superior Zeitung, and from the Herold und Volksfreund in La Crosse to Der Correspondent in Platteville.
Milwaukee businessman George Brumder (1839–1910), an immigrant from the Alsace, turned his Germania Publishing Company into the largest producer of German-language materials in the US. In 1874 he published Die Germania, a widely circulated Lutheran newspaper with Republican leanings. At the time of his death, he owned four German-language papers in Milwaukee and seven others across the country.
Brumder was also a prolific publisher of books, including fiction, non-fiction, religious works, and children’s books. One unique genre was the Rathgeber, how-to books that addressed the specific needs of German Americans. Der deutsche Farmer (1882), for example, explained farm management, even for those who had never farmed before, so that no one would have to exclaim, “Hätte man das damals gewußt, oder daran gedacht!” (“If only I had known or thought of that at the time!”)
Brumder’s biggest seller was a cookbook: the Praktisches Kochbuch für die Deutschen in Amerika (1879). Working from a popular German cookbook written by Henriette Davidis, Brumder’s wife Henriette had tried out the recipes and adjusted them for American ingredients and measurements.
America’s German-language publications offer a unique view on American society and how German immigrants viewed their place within it. They also helped immigrants to adapt to the American environment, thereby contributing to their acculturation.
Additional Reading on “Published in German”
The German-American Press, edited by Henry Geitz, Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1992